Personal update: New job, same library

I’ve been terribly slow in updating here recently (Blogs are dead! Long live Twitter!), but I wanted to announce that I started a new job at the University of Michigan Library in May, and am no longer the Library’s copyright specialist. My new title is Special Assistant to the Dean of Libraries. It’s a fancy title, eh? I’m still figuring it out what it means, but so far it includes a whole range of things: I work directly with Dean Paul Courant on assorted projects, especially research and writing relating to scholarly publishing; I attend administrative meetings; I serve as a liaison between the Library’s administration and the rest of the Library; I manage the annual budget writing process; I write first drafts of all kinds of documents; I attend more meetings. The easiest way I can explain it is that this job is like being an administrator-in-training. I get to observe library administrators in action, I take on responsibility for assorted projects related to administration, and over time I’ll learn how to do what administrators do. I feel very lucky to be doing this job at this library, and it’s been pretty exciting so far.

So what does this mean for this blog? I hope to get back to it and post a bit more regularly. I still plan to focus on copyright and scholarly publishing because those topics remain important and interesting to me, but I may also write about other issues in academic libraries as my new role develops and I start branching out into other areas. Outside of the U-M Library my work in the area of scholarly communications continues: I’m still a member of ALA’s Copyright Advisory Network, and this summer I’m also an instructor for ACRL’s Scholarly Communications 101 Roadshow. Occasionally people who find me through this blog send me questions or invite me to speak about Creative Commons or copyright instruction, and I still welcome those questions and invitations and will do my best to answer them promptly and accept as often as I can.

Thank you to everyone who has been reading this over the last year and a half for your insightful comments and questions. I hope this new era in my professional life provides fodder for more interesting discussions here and elsewhere.

Lessons from Open Access Week

As most of you already know, last week was Open Access Week at the University of Michigan Library. It was a great series of events, and I’m very happy with how it all came together. Audio recordings of some of the events will be available soon for those who are interested, and I’ll post links when they are. Private Drive by Ron Layters
Private Drive by Ron Layters, CC-BY-NC-SA

Now that I’ve had a little time to catch my breath and look back, I’m realizing that OA Week gave me a much-needed opportunity to refine and reflect on my thinking about open access. Over the course of the week, I learned a few valuable lessons, and even changed my mind about a couple of things. Before I forget it all, I wanted to share them here.

Lesson #1: A formal definition of open access should include re-use rights The Budapest, Bethesda, and Berlin definitions of open access all require not just free online access to the work for all users with an internet connection, but also a license that permits copying and redistribution of the work. Prior to Open Access Week, I believed that a definition of open access that required usage rights was sacrificing the good for the sake of the perfect, and that therefore all three of these founding documents were deeply flawed. In an environment where scholarly authors must often haggle mightily just to keep the right to deposit their articles in an institutional repository, such a requirement was asking too much. We shouldn’t disparage those who do the valuable and important work of promoting subject and institutional repositories just because in an ideal world we’d have something even better.

Discussions at the Open Access and the Academy panel have convinced me that the difference between a work that is freely available and a work that is freely reusable is tremendous, and that true openness does require the possibility of future adaptation and use. We can draw a distinction between free access and Open Access without demeaning those who have only been able to achieve free access. In very many situations, free access is enough.

There is also a broader Open with a capital O movement – Open Source, Open Education, Open Content – and those opens all require Open Licenses. As a child of the branded generation, I think it makes sense for all those Open movements to have a recognizable theme, and since Open Source, Open Education, and Open Content all call for Open Licenses, so should Open Access. (The question of which licenses constitute Open Licenses is another matter, one on which I tend to disagree with the majority.)

Lesson #2: Undergraduates have an important role to play in advocating for Open Access This is the second thing about which my mind has been changed. In the past, I have argued that Open Access outreach programs targeting students are misguided, because undergrads have nothing to do with any part of the publishing process. Most of them don’t write articles for academic journals, and they don’t publish academic journals. The points in the system where change could happen involved the author and the journal, and those were the two audiences to which we should be directing our message.

While nobody spoke directly about undergraduate engagement during OA Week, the week made me think about it because it reminded me that it’s damned hard to get faculty into a room they’re not contractually obligated to be in. Despite a determined marketing push, faculty did not turn out to our events in large numbers. The same is true in my day to day work. Most of the time, I only hear from faculty seeking copyright advice after they have a problem. Until they have a problem, author rights and open access are simply not on their radar. I can send postcards and emails and speak at department meetings until I’m blue in the face, but it’s going to take an outside force to convince busy academics that this is something they should be paying attention to. As evidenced by the faculties at Harvard, MIT, and elsewhere, the winds are starting to shift, but progress is still very slow.

So now imagine what a little undergraduate activism can do. The high cost of purchasing scholarly journals contributes to the rising cost of education, and the rising cost of education is a hot topic in these dire economic times. If we can get students riled up about open access – and that’s still a big if – they might have more luck influencing the behavior of their professors than librarians have. While before I thought that targeting students for open access outreach was a waste of time, now I believe it’s worth a shot. Some infrastructure for it already exists, and in the coming months I plan to look into how I can promote student participation here at Michigan.

Lesson #3: Never lose sight of the Great Conversation Jean-Claude Guédon, one of the panelists on Tuesday, spoke of the importance of open access in facilitating what he called “The Great Conversation.” The Great Conversation is the purpose of all scholarship. It signifies engagement with knowledge, ideas, and a worldwide community of scholars. To frame the issue this way, open access is not about money or fairness or social justice, it’s about something more romantic. Perhaps the way to win over the hearts and minds of faculty is to put open access in loftier, more idealistic terms. People who do not have access to scholarly output cannot participate in the Great Conversation, and neither can people whose works are not widely accessible. And who can resist the seduction of a Great Conversation, a free-flowing, boundary-crossing exchange of opinion and understanding?

We in libraries often get bogged down in the numbers, the line graphs that show the skyrocketing prices of journals relative to inflation, the mundanities of our stagnant or shrinking budgets. We believe these fiscal arguments should resonate with faculty, and sometimes they do, but there is nothing terribly inspiring about a line graph. When we talk about the importance of Open Access, we should remember to speak not only about what is broken right now, but also the tantalizing possibilities for the Great Conversation that lies ahead.

Open Access Week at the University of Michigan

I have been working with an excellent team of librarians here at Michigan to plan a week of events related to open access and the future of scholarship. We’re calling it Open Access Week. Clever, no?

It’s less than three weeks away, and as the schedule has come together I’m struck by how timely these events are, and how much we could conceivably do under the umbrella of discussing open access and the future of scholarship. When we started planning several months ago, I was concerned that a whole week might be too ambitious; I wasn’t sure how we would fill it. Now we’re starting to turn down proposals for events because there is so much going on already. The confluence of circumstances nationally has made this the perfect moment to discuss what’s wrong with existing modes of academic publishing, and to start getting aggressive about making change.

First we have the return of the dreadful Fair Copyright In Research Works Act, which is opposed by just about everyone except commercial publishers, including 33 Nobel Laureates in science. Then comes the word that together Elsevier and LexisNexis earned over $1.5 billion US in profit in 2008. For Elsevier that’s an adjusted operating margin — a profit — of 33%. While universities across the country are facing budget cuts of 20% or more, Elsevier brings in 33% profits, largely on the backs of university libraries. And economic news more broadly indicates that no library will escape unscathed. When Harvard starts laying off librarians and eliminating subscriptions, we’re all in trouble.

Now is the perfect time to get serious about adopting alternate modes of scholarly publishing, and Open Access models are serious alternatives. I’ll be the first to admit that we still haven’t figured out how to make OA work long term, or how to make it financially sustainable. We know it’s cheaper than Elsevier, but real costs remain. The more we experiment with new models, the better our chances that some of them will succeed. My hope is that our series of events during Open Access Week will help raise awareness among faculty and researchers here, and also build some energy for action and experimentation. I’d love to see an Open Access deposit mandate here at Michigan, or a commitment among faculty to edit and referee for OA journals. These ideas have been around for a long time, but this economic moment might be just what we need to push them forward. A recession is a terrible thing to waste.

MLibrary is a Featured Commoner

From time to time Creative Commons highlights organizations that have adopted CC licenses to provide case studies of how the licenses work in different settings. It’s called the Featured Commoners series. This week CC is featuring the University of Michigan Library. Yay!

I like the Featured Commoner series because I think it’s helpful for people who are new to CC to get a sense of how the licenses apply in the real world. Frequently the series highlights musicians, artists, and cool webby projects. Several months ago the blog featured Otago Polytechnic University’s adoption of CC-BY for all their educational content, and that was part of the inspiration for the U-M library’s decision to start licensing our work. These case studies are a proven way to spread good ideas, and I’m excited we got to share ours.

Updated: Duh! The whole thing is licensed CC-BY, so I’m reproducing it here for your reading pleasure.

University of Michigan Library
Cameron Parkins, February 19th, 2009

Over the past year, the University of Michigan Library has shown itself to be particularly sensible in regards to open content licensing, the public domain, and issues of copyright in the digital age. The U-M Library has integrated public domain book machines, adopted CC licensing for their content, and independently had their Copyright Specialist, Molly Kleinman, articulate the importance of proper attribution in using CC licenses. We recently caught up with Molly to learn more about these efforts – primarily how they came to be and the results they have yielded – as well as discuss CC’s place in educational institutions at large and how CC and Fair Use interact in the academic sphere.

Book, Suzanne Chapman | CC BY-NC-SA

What is your role at the University of Michigan Library? How does the University Library interact with the rest of the University?

I’m the University Library’s copyright specialist. I provide copyright and publishing assistance for faculty, students, researchers, staff, and librarians throughout the University of Michigan, and occasionally to the community at large. I handle questions on both sides of the copyright universe: people come to me as users of copyrighted works and also as creators with concerns about their own rights. At a university just about everybody is both a user and a creator, so I think it’s important to promote a balanced perspective on copyright. A big part of my job is teaching workshops and providing one-on-one consultations about copyright and scholarly publishing basics. I work with librarians all over campus to raise awareness about topics like fair use, Open Access, and author rights. I also support a number of the Library’s activities, including our institutional repository Deep Blue, the Scholarly Publishing Office, and Special Collections exhibits. People always ask if I’m an attorney… I’m not. I’m a librarian by training, and have a background in publishing. A law degree is useful when dealing with copyright, and it’s certainly necessary when you’re providing legal advice, but in many other situations it’s not essential. Copyright is messy and confusing and it makes a lot of people nervous and scared. Approaching these issues as a librarian allows me to explain things in “human readable” language instead of legalese. My goal is to demystify the law and empower students and faculty to advocate for their rights as both users and creators.

As for the role of the Library in the University, I think it remains true, if a bit cliche, that the library is the heart of the university, both physically and intellectually. At the University of Michigan we have a flagship building at the middle of the central campus in Ann Arbor and many smaller libraries located in the hearts of the departments and campuses throughout the University, and we’re also at the heart of scholarly activity and information on campus. The difference now is that so much of the information to which we provide access is online. We still have millions of print books, and our physical spaces remain tremendously important, but more and more our buildings are gathering places for group work, studying, and instruction. This means our interactions with the rest of the University are increasingly distributed. Many scholars use the Library every day without ever entering one of our buildings, and at the same time the information services that the Library offers are expanding. We continue to answer reference questions, but in addition to staffing the reference desk we answer questions via phone, email, and instant message. Librarians teach classic bibliographic instruction and also classes on Google searching, citation management software, PowerPoint, and Photoshop. We have three locations on campus where people can get assistance scanning documents, building websites, and creating posters, and we have facilities dedicated to supporting patrons who use spatial data, numeric data, and statistics. And for the last two and a half years my office has made copyright and publishing support services available. The role of the library in universities has grown as human access to information has grown. We do much more than just keep track of a bunch of old books.

Can you explain the Espresso Book Machines? What kind of impact has on demand printing had in the UM libraries? All the books printed in the machines are public domain – would this sort of system been possible if the works had been All Rights Reserved?

The Espresso Book Machine can produce a perfect-bound paperback book in less than ten minutes. The U-M Library got one last fall. The technology is still very new and there aren’t very many of them, but the premise is that you could distribute book production to point of need, which in many contexts would be cheaper and more convenient than the current system. All you would need is a network connection and a few terabytes of storage somewhere to hold all the digital files. For now, the machine is still a sort of proof of concept. It’s wonderful for the long tail of books, the rare or obscure books that are long out of print and hard to find. The Espresso Book Machine can give these books new life, and give the two or three people to whom these books might actually be important a copy of their very own. The fact that it’s networked is key, because it allows us to print much more than just books digitized from our Library; it means that someone a thousand miles away can print copies of books held by the University of Michigan. We currently print books digitized by the Open Content Alliance, and in the future we imagine printing CC-licensed books as well, provided the license permits it. My understanding is that On Demand Books, the company that produces the Espresso Book Machine, is working out a royalty-payment system so that it will be possible to print books that are still under copyright, but so far at U-M we’re only printing public domain books. Eventually we’d like to partner with people from the University community to experiment with printing new works, things like poetry collections from a writing class, or textbooks.

You can see a video about MLibrary’s Espresso Book Machine here.

You wrote up a great piece on how to on how to use CC licenses and CC licensed works – how important is proper attribution in your line of work? For culture at large?

Attribution is tremendously important in academic research. Without properly cited sources, it is impossible for future scholars to follow the line of thinking that led to a given conclusion. Attribution is the trail of breadcrumbs that gets us back to the beginning. There is something of a plagiarism panic on college campuses, and while I think some of it is overblown, citation and attribution remain some of the first skills we teach undergraduates.

Attribution is also important from the perspective of scholars who are trying to build their careers. Young scholars want credit for their work so they can get tenure-track jobs and eventually tenure. Tenured faculty want credit so they can get more research funding. I see this as one of the selling points for Creative Commons in academic settings. U.S. law doesn’t have the framework of moral rights that exist in the U.K. and elsewhere requiring that an author always be given proper credit for a work even if she has signed away all the other rights. The attribution requirement that is the baseline in all CC licenses provides some reassurance to academic authors who may not expect to profit financially from their work but for whom credit is very important.

How can CC licenses and CC-licensed material help instructional librarians?

CC-licensed material is an incredibly valuable resource for all kinds of instructors. Creative Commons has supported the creation of a wealth of new works that are available for use without permissions or fees, which means that instructors, librarians, and students don’t have to rely on the public domain for materials that they can repurpose without fear or risk of copyright infringement. This is a huge thing. I have a hard time not using superlatives when I talk about what a wonderful resource it is. We can even use the tool we’ve always used – Google – to find Creative Commons-licensed photographs, illustrations, music, video, and educational resources.

I know instructional librarians who use CC-licensed works in a number of ways: many use CC-licensed images to spice up their workshop slideshows, one colleague uses music from ccMixter for instructional videos he posts on YouTube, and a handful use CC-licensed teaching materials as the basis for creating their own classes.

For librarians who write and teach, Creative Commons-licensed resources are a windfall, but there is much more to our work than just our own writing and instruction. Though it’s not usually framed this way, academic librarians spend a lot of time assisting people with the production of scholarship. Everyone knows that librarians help people do the research, but we may also help them with the writing and the teaching, and guide them through the publishing process, too. In those roles, Creative Commons-licensed material is a gift we can give our users. One of the most common copyright questions librarians get is, “Is it okay for me to use this copyrighted thing in this way?” With Creative Commons, we can say, “Well, it might be really hard to clear the rights on that random picture you found on the internet, but look, here are hundreds of pictures of the same thing that you are free to use without asking!” I’ve had consultations with faculty that ended abruptly when I showed them how to search Flickr for licensed images. The faculty member was so thrilled by the realization that she wouldn’t have to spend the next six months tracking down permissions, and so distracted by the discovery of this treasure trove of usable photographs, that all she wanted to do was be left alone to browse.

Most of the people reading this blog already know about the benefits of licensing their work so I won’t go into it too much, but needless to say those benefits apply to librarians as well. Many of the works that librarians create, like bibliographies or technology guides, are useful across many institutions, so CC licenses make a lot of sense for us. Licensing our work is also a great way to connect with colleagues at other institutions and to get our names out there.

How do librarians balance CC licensing with fair use rights?

I’d like to say that librarians as a profession are all staunch defenders of fair use and that we all promote a balanced view of copyright that takes full advantage of all the exceptions and limitations available to us. But unfortunately many librarians have been as terrified by the content industry’s scare tactics as everyone else, and they interpret fair use and other exceptions narrowly and with great caution. As a result, some librarians don’t make all the uses they could of copyrighted material, and the guidance they provide to their patrons is similarly limited. One of the things I love about CC is that it provides content that people can copy and build upon without relying on fair use. If you already have permission, you don’t need to worry about four factor analyses or risk assessments. CC-licensed content is such a valuable resource because people can use it without fear. Still, I always make it a point to explain that CC licenses are permissions that have been granted above and beyond the fair use rights that everyone already has, and that those fair use rights are broader than most people realize.

None of this is to say that fair use isn’t tremendously important to librarians and academics; it is. When patrons come to me with a specific work that they’d like to use, I help them through the process of making a best-guess fair use determination, and I always encourage people to take advantage of their rights as users. If we don’t fight for a robust fair use exception we will lose it.

In October of 2008, the University Library decided to release all their own content under a CC BY-NC license. What was the motivation behind this decision? What kind of outcomes have there been? Have you seen any interesting cases of reuse?

There were few motivating factors behind the decision to use Creative Commons licenses for Library-created content. The biggest was that it aligned well with our overall commitment to openness and access. Part of the Library’s mission is “to contribute to the common good by collecting, organizing, preserving, communicating, and sharing the record of human knowledge.” We promote open access publishing models, we have a strong history of digitizing public domain works and making them available online, and we partnered with Google to scan all of the books in our collection, even the works under copyright. Adopting a Creative Commons license for our own content – things like study guides, bibliographies, and technology tutorials – seemed like a logical next step. In part we were inspired by the story of Otago Polytechnic University, which was a Featured Commoner a while ago for making all of its open educational resources available under the CC-BY license. We don’t produce as much content, but what we do produce we wanted to make freely available for reuse.

There was also a more practical consideration: we receive permission requests to use Library-produced content with some regularity, and those requests often go to people who have no idea what to do with them. They get bounced around until someone finally just says yes, and these requests can take a lot of time to handle. Creative Commons licenses were made to help reduce transaction costs, and we saw that as a potential benefit for the Library. It turns out that we still sometimes receive permission requests, but now it’s very easy to point the requester to the CC license. It can even be a teaching moment, a chance to introduce a person to Creative Commons for the first time.

We have only had the licenses up for a few months, but I am aware of a couple of instances of reuse so far. There is a liberal arts college that is building a website of copyright and publishing resources based on the U-M Library’s copyright website. I also heard recently about a scholar who is publishing a paper on digital libraries and plans to use screenshots of our digital collections. That’s the kind of use that would probably be considered fair, but publishers sometimes ask authors to clear the permissions anyway. Now she can just point to the CC license instead.

Can you explain the mission of the HathiTrust? What is UM’s invovlement?

HathiTrust is a collaborative trusted repository for digital book and journal content. It was launched by the 12 university libraries that are a part of the Committee for Institutional Cooperation (CIC) and the 11 University of California libraries. At the moment it’s composed primarily of books that were scanned by Google as a part of the Google Digitization Project, but it will also include works digitized by the partner libraries. Even though much of the content in HathiTrust is duplicated in Google Book Search, the models are very different. Google emphasizes access and search, while HathiTrust is dedicated to long-term preservation, stewarding the files through changes in format and hardware. HathiTrust also has an interest in serving scholarly research needs, and developed a system to serve users with print disabilities that provides access to screen-reader-optimized versions of the OCR files, even for works that are still under copyright.

U-M has been the primary developer of the software platform for the repository, much of which was based on existing open source projects. The U-M Library also recently received a grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Services to create a Copyright Review Management System, the result of which will partly support HathiTrust. HathiTrust only provides access to books in the public domain. The Copyright Review Management System is dedicated to reliably identifying books that are in the public domain that were published in the United States from 1923 to 1963. Those works may be in the public domain if certain requirements weren’t met, but it each book has to be researched individually. This grant will help us set up a reliable and collaborative system for identifying books in the public domain so that we can make those books available to the world through the HathiTrust, and share that information with other organizations that are dedicated to improving access.

Is there anything else our readers should know about the University Library? What are your plans for the future?

We have an event coming up that might of interest to your readers in or near Ann Arbor. From March 23rd – 27th we’re having Open Access Week, a series of events promoting and investigating the Open Access movement and its impact on scholarship. Creative Commons licenses play an important part in open access publishing, and I expect we’ll be talking about CC a lot that week. It’s primarily for a local audience, but all events are free and open to the public. A full schedule of events is here.

University of Michigan Library adopts Creative Commons licenses

I am thrilled to report that the University of Michigan Library has adopted Creative Commons licenses for Library-produced content.

From the press release:

The University of Michigan Library is adopting Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial licenses for all works created by the Library for which the Regents of the University of Michigan hold the copyrights. These works include bibliographies, research guides, lesson plans, and technology tutorials. The Library believes that the adoption of Creative Commons licenses is perfectly aligned with our mission, “to contribute to the common good by collecting, organizing, preserving, communicating, and sharing the record of human knowledge.”

Commented University Librarian Paul Courant, “Using Creative Commons licenses is another way the University Library can act on its commitment to the public good. By marking our copyrighted content as available for reuse, we offer the University community and the public a rich set of educational resources free from traditional permissions barriers.”

It is a proud week to be a Michigan librarian (see also this announcement about the new Hathi Trust shared digital repository, and this one about our shiny new Espresso Book Machine). It’s amazing to work in a library that has strongly committed to innovation without losing sight of a core value system centered around public service. I feel very lucky. Go blue!